BJP favours changes in HP land law; Cong flags opposition

The ruling BJP and the Congress in Himachal Pradesh are at loggerheads over the issue of relaxation in restrictions on the purchase of land in the state.

While the ruling party is in favour of easing the norms, the Congress has decided to oppose changes in the Himachal Pradesh Tenancy and Land Reforms Act, 1972.

Vice-president of state BJP Ganesh Dutt said they were in favour of making some 'practical and genuine' amendments to the law, allowing erstwhile agriculturists of the state to buy land without permission.

On the other hand, Congress state general secretary Vikramaditya Singh said no relaxation in the law would be allowed and their party would move a motion in the Vidhan Sabha in the monsoon session against any such attempt.

Section 118 of the Himachal Pradesh Tenancy and Land Reforms Act bars the transfer of land to non-agriculturists, Himachalis or non-Himachalis without permission from the state government.

However, sub section 2 (g) gives non-agriculturists the right to purchase a house or land for building a house from the Himachal Pradesh Housing and Urban Development Authority without permission.

Commenting on the issue, Dutt said, "The BJP is of the view that those people whose ancestors were agriculturists and owned agriculture land but sold it before the implementation of the Act in 1972 to start some other business, should be allowed to buy land without any permission."

The BJP state vice-president said there were several non-Himachali bureaucrats who were not even agriculturists but had purchased several bighas before the implementation of the Act.

But being agriculturists on paper, they and their heirs could buy land without permission, he said, adding that they should be barred from buying land after making proper changes in the law.

The BJP leader also accused the Congress of making changes in the norms for its own convenience from time to time.

He alleged that the Congress had allowed its general secretary Priyanka Gandhi to purchase land for a house in Chharabra on the pretext of security concerns.

So, an amendment should be made to the law, he said, adding that the Congress always started making a hue and cry whenever the BJP tried to bring "genuine changes" in the law.

On the other hand, Vikramaditya Singh said the BJP should rise above the party lines and support the Congress motion in Vidhan Sabha against any attempt to make changes in the law.

Interestingly, both Vikramaditya and Dutt had flayed former Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi for their demand to allow outsiders buy land in Himachal Pradesh by withdrawing Section 118 of the Act.

Both leaders said the law was enacted to save forests, tribal customs and interests of small farmers.

Section 118 of the tenancy act was entirely different from Article 370 of the Constitution under which a special status were given to Jammu and Kashmir, they said.